Methods of Proof

A mathematics proof establishes the validity of a mathematics statement. Statements are assertions that can be broadly classified under two types: Existence statements and others. An existence statement asserts that objects with a given property exist. Here is an existence statement: Given two rational numbers, there is a rational number between them. An existence statement is proved in one of two ways. One way is to construct and exhibit the objects whose existence is postulated by the existence statement. This is called a constructive proof, which is a proof method. For instance, given two rational numbers a and b, we may consider the number (a+b)/2 and show that it is rational and lies between a and b - thus we have constructed a rational number lying between any two rational numbers. Clearly, constructions for some existence statements can be difficult and there are existence statements for which constructions are not known. A second way to prove an existence statement is by proving that the objects in question must exist. This is a non-constructive proof. A famous example of this is afforded by Cantor's proof of the non-denumerability of real numbers. Combining with his proof of the denumerability of rational numbers, it proves the existence of irrational numbers without actually constructing any irrational number. Nonconstructive proofs are also used for proving statements other than existence statements. In fact, these are the proofs used for proving statements other than existence statements. Here is the summary of what we have discussed so far: There are two kinds of proofs - constructive and nonconstructive. The only use of constructive proofs is in proving existence statements and sometimes it can be very difficult to find a constructive proof for a given existence statement. Nonconstructive proofs are used in proving statements other than existence statements; they are also used sometimes to prove existence statements. The remainder of this discussion will be about nonconstructive proofs. There are two kinds of nonconstructive proofs: Direct Proof and Indirect Proof. Before we discuss these, we shall explain a technique called "Conditional Proof" that can be used in both direct and indirect proofs. Since Conditional Proof is applicable in any proof, we shall consider it a "special" inference rule. This rule arises from a theorem in Propositional Logic, called the Deduction Theorem. Deduction Theorem If from a set of wffs  we can derive q from p1, p2,  pn, then we can derive (pn  q) from p1, p2,  pn-1 and . We use the standard notation p1, p2 Deduction Theorem says that if p1, p2 q to say that q is derived from p1 and p2. The q, then p1  (p2  q).

Deduction Theorem justifies the technique known as the Rule of Conditional Proof (CP). To prove that q  r in a line of proof, we temporarily introduce the premise q and if now we can prove r, then by the Deduction Theorem we have proved q  r and the assumption q may be discharged from further use in the remaining portion of the proof. It is called Conditional Proof, because we have not proved the truth of r; we have only proved that if q is true then r is true. r is shown to be true provided that q is true. That is, r is true on the condition that q is true. Direct Proof Every direct deductive proof has this form: Assume as true a premise p and then establish p  q so that, by Modus Ponens, q would be true. The work in this proof then is in establishing p  q, which often requires many steps: p  q1  q2   qn  q. By the rule

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For instance. one can similarly prove that gcd(b.r).r).r). which means c|r. But c|b. we get r = (n-mq)c.Z). Since any common divisor of b and r can not exceed gcd(b.r)? Well. Indirect proof by Contraposition The contrapositive or counterpositive of p  q is ~q  ~p. and since p is the premise and hence assumed as true.r) ≤ gcd(a. The conclusion is gcd(a. which is the principle behind the Euclidean Algorithm. we used the rule that (X  Y). So you see. Indirect proofs can take three forms. if we can show that any common divisor of a and b is also a common divisor of b and r. (gcd(a. we get a = nc.) Establishing p  q in situations where q is a statement that holds for all natural numbers greater than or equal to a specific natural number is often accomplished by a method called Mathematical Induction (MI).b). Incidentally. So when ~q  ~p is established. gcd(4.of Hypothetical Syllogism. Then we went from step to step using rules of arithmetic and logic. It is sufficient to show that any common divisor of a and b is a common divisor of b and r.) Here the premise is this: a and b are integers with b  0 and q and r are non-negative integers such that a = bq + r. QED (Notice that the first three steps in the proof constitute a setting up of the proof. axioms. then p  q.b) means the greatest common divisor of a and b. definitions. to establish p  q. That would mean gcd(a. Given: a and b are integers with b  0 and q and r are non-negative integers such that a = bq + r. So the proof goes like this. we get b = mc. This is proof by contrapositive. Hence c is a common divisor of b and r. In the fourth step we have the premise of the proof. That is. Example: If a and b are integers with b  0 and q and r are non-negative integers such that a = bq + r. Indirect Proof An Indirect Proof is so called because. From c|a.6) = 2. ~q  ~p is true.b) ≤ gcd(b. First we set up the problem. a proof of a theorem in a branch of mathematics uses the rules. 1. From c|b. if p divides n2 then p divides n. A direct proof with many steps is like crossing a stream by stepping on steppable protuberances in the water. in it.b) = gcd(b. A truth table will show that (p  q)  (~q  ~p). To show: gcd(a. In the last step. what do we need to show to establish gcd(a. and theorems of that branch of mathematics along with the rules of Logic. whenever p  q is true.(X  Z)  (X  Y. Let c be a common divisor of a and b.r). We ask. p  q is established.b) ≤ gcd(b. Example: For any prime p. then gcd(a. for some integer n. MI is a direct proof method. we will be done. Then from r = a-bq. 6 .b) ≤ gcd(b.b) ≤ gcd(b. So why use a contrapositive proof when it is equivalent to proving p  q? The reason is that in some instances. ~q may contain more information than p and it might be easier to establish ~p from ~q than q from p. then the largest (greatest) common divisor of a and b will be a common divisor of b and r.r). q would be true by Modus Ponens. for some integer m. Direct Proof is the preferred method of nonconstructive proof. we start with ~q.